He noted that he has heard from many employers that they can’t find workers, particularly in the health care, construction, manufacturing and hospitality and leisure industries.
“Incentives matter and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” Gianforte said. “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”
Federally funded benefits
While all the funding for the pandemic unemployment benefits programs comes from the federal government, states can opt to terminate their participation.
Some 16.2 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits, as of mid-April, according to the most recent federal data.
Benefits ends in late June
The state will also end payments to those in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs on that date.
The former provides benefits to freelancers, independent contractors, the self employed and certain people affected by the coronavirus, while the latter extends the duration of payments to those in the regular state unemployment benefits program.
There were nearly 23,300 unemployment claims filed in Montana the week ending April 24, including residents in the regular state program and the federal programs, according to state data.
Montana’s unemployment rate was 3.8% in March, among the lowest in the nation and near its pre-pandemic lows. It hit a virus-fueled high of 11.9% in April 2020.
There are a record number of new jobs postings each week, said Laurie Esau, the state’s labor and industry commissioner.
“But today, despite an influx of new residents into Montana over the last year, our labor force is some 10,000 workers smaller than it was before the pandemic,” she said.
More than 14,000 jobs are posted on the MontanaWorks.gov portal, according to the state agency.
To provide an extra incentive, those who are receiving unemployment benefits as of May 4 and subsequently accept a job offer will receive a $1,200 bonus after they complete at least four paid weeks of work.
The funding will come from federal money authorized by the Democrats’ relief package, Gianforte said.